A few weeks back, Broken Bow Records star Dustin Lynch released his fifth studio album Blue In The Sky.
The project contains 12 upbeat tracks, five of which Lynch co-wrote, including his 6-week No. 1 with MacKenzie Porter, “Thinking ‘Bout You.” Blue In The Sky also features his new single, “Party Mode,” which marked his biggest add week and highest career debut when it impacted radio last week.
Since his debut in 2012 with “Cowboys and Angels,” Lynch has become a serious country hitmaker. He’s achieved eight No. 1 country songs, four top 5 albums, eight Gold and Platinum singles, and over 3 billion global on-demand streams.
Lynch recently spoke with MusicRow about the last 10 years, his hopes for the future, and lessons learned along the way.
MusicRow: When you were releasing “Cowboys and Angels” in 2012, what were your goals for the song? What were you thinking then?
I didn’t expect it would do anything, to be honest with you. I knew it felt special to me, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t expect it to go on and rack up the accolades that it did.
In hindsight, I wish I would’ve asked more questions or at least attempted to contact other artists to ask, “Hey, if this happens, what do I do? What shouldn’t I do?” But I’ve learned a lot along the way, too. I was scared to death because I was afraid that maybe I couldn’t follow [“Cowboys and Angels”] up or handle the success that it brought on.
If you could go back, what would you tell yourself then?
I would definitely tell myself to trust your gut when it comes to your artistry. I was listening to a lot of outside influences back then. I should have been standing up for myself. I think everybody probably has regrets creatively along the way, like, “Dang it! We should have done that,” or “I should have gone back in and rerecorded that.”
Throughout the years, it’s become easier. I’ve become a better communicator in the studio, and I’ve become a better communicator to my team. I’ve assembled a team around me that that will stand up for me and believes in our long term goals. So we’re in a really good spot right now and I think that’s all part of the journey.
What is a piece of advice you’ve garnered along the way that you would share with newer artists?
Keep playing cover gigs so you can make some money. (laughs) I remember going back home after “Cowboy and Angels” was a hit and all of my friends growing up thought I had millions of dollars because I had a hit on the radio and I was on the CMT Music Awards performing. But what they didn’t realize is I was literally sleeping on my parents’ couch at the time and living out of a hotel room. I went from having a very successful run of cover shows, and also playing originals, at a lot of college campuses, frat parties, sorority parties, and wedding receptions—and making a great living! All that goes away and you start playing free shows [while promoting] the first few singles.
Keep believing in yourself and save your money, because you’re not guaranteed much early on. Keep believing, save up, and stay frugal.
You recently signed with Warner Chappell. Why was that the right move for you?
[When making that decision] I looked back on who has been helping me these past few years, who’s given me opportunities, who’s believed in me, who’s pushed me and challenged me to become a better writer… And it was the Warner Chappell team.
It just felt like home. I love doing business with people that I like to do life with. Ben Vaughn has been there since before I could write a song worth a crap, he’s championed me. He was on my radio tour video as a guy that was endorsing me early on, so he’s been a believer since day one. Ryan Beuschel has become a great buddy of mine. It’s fun to create with those guys that I like hanging out with off the clock.
What about your songwriting has changed over the last 10 years?
My songwriting has gotten a little bit more efficient because I know what I want to say and what I want to do in my live show. I’m not just casting into the wind anymore. There’s purpose behind every cast. For me, in the writing room, I’m always steering the ship with my live show in mind.
I’ve seen myself click with certain writers along the way. Tim Nichols was an early believer, [as well as] Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, and Ashley Gorley. I was an early believer in Zach Crowell, believe it or not. I think I took him on his first bus trip ever. Fast forward to “Small Town Boy,” he had gotten his foot under him as a producer with the Montevallo record with Sam [Hunt]. He raised his hand and said, “Man, let me produce ‘Small Town Boy.’ I just feel really passionate about that song.” So we let him swing the bat and the rest is history.
Speaking of Zach Crowell, he produced your new album Blue In The Sky. What did you want this record to sound like?
There weren’t lines in the sand of, “It’s gotta be this or it’s not making [the album].” It was just about how I was living life, I let that steer it. A lot of that was just being off the road, being with friends, being on the water, and having a buzz. When we’re on the lake, we are always either drinking a beer or mixing tequila, so listening to music in that head space is a great spot to be.
You’ve had a lot of success recently with MacKenzie Porter on “Thinking ‘Bout You.” What has it been like to bring a new artist up with you on this one?
When we start seeing those indicators [that the song was going to be a hit], Mackenzie was texting me weekly. “Is this good?” I was like, “Mackenzie, no, this is great!” It was a fun ride. No kidding, I woke up early this morning and the first song I started singing in my head was Mackenzie’s next single. She’s got a great future ahead and it’s been a blessing [working with her].
What are some of your goals for the next 10 years? What are you shooting for at this point?
Just to continue to live in the moment and be present. The next 10 years are going to be about enjoying the moment of creativity; to create and have fun.
The next 10 years for us as a team, we have goals to continue to grow the fan base and grow our tickets. I know we can hang with the best of ’em. We just got to headline down at Crash My Playa with Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. Getting to do that at that level, to hold that crowd and feel that energy for the entire set, that lets us know we’re ready.
For the next 10 years, we are just going to see where that takes us. I’ve got 10 years until I’m as old as Luke Bryan, so I’ve got many more beers until I reach his level. (laughs) We’re going to continue to enjoy life and put on the best shows we can.
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